There's freedom and magic in realizing you can love others in healthy, life-giving ways – beyond the borders of your own life and limiting mindsets.
Good question. What does "loving beyond your borders" actually mean? Let’s first look at a few interpretations.
Loving beyond (your) borders =
- Choosing to give others our best in terms of time and attention;
- Making every effort to overcome the Fundamental Attribution Error (a term in social psychology describing how humans tend to view the negative behavior of others as a character flaw while at the same time viewing the same behavior in ourselves as a simple one-off mistake);
- Considering how our attitudes, words and behaviors impact others;
- Looking beyond the confines of our own lives, our own experiences, our own communities, our own culture, religious beliefs, and our own nationalities.
- Realizing there are other ways of viewing the world than our own, and learning to respect those ideas, even if we personally don’t agree with them for our own lives;
- Recognizing those who are “not like us” are human beings, worthy of dignity and respect (and giving it), no matter background, culture, ethnicity, gender, language, political persuasion, race, religion and socioeconomic background.
- Attempting, as much as possible, to remove blinding attitudes, beliefs, biases and stereotypes towards others who are different from us or our affinity group. And acknowledging those blinding attitudes when they do exist (whether in ourselves or in society as a whole). Denial itself is a big part of the problem.
- Loving others near and far. Caring for our world. Realizing we are part of a whole.
From this list of 8 here, I could go on. But let me incorporate these ideas into a simple phrase:
Loving beyond borders means choosing love first, no matter what.
Could our world actually do this? Some would laugh. This is naive, some may think. The world is a harsh place; it’s a dog-eat-dog Darwinian world, and that’s just reality.
I would agree – to a point. It is a harsh world. But those who can love, unfettered, should.
What kind of love am I talking about?
I’m speaking about the love often referred to as agape (a•ga•pe) love – unconditional love – in the Christian faith, and outlined so eloquently in the Bible in the book of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 (verses 4–7):
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Now, imagine this is a stand-alone phrase you see somewhere. You have no idea it comes from the Bible. Could you agree with it?
I think you’d be hard pressed to find a person on this earth – even someone like El Chapo, the infamous drug lord currently on trial for his multitude of evil deeds – who, though they may not practice it, would disagree with the truth of this passage.
So, can we choose this?
Yes, I believe we can. As a Christ-follower I rely upon Jesus to enable me to exercise this type of love on a daily basis. And I can say, even with that, I regularly fall short. But it's still an act of choice, of my will.
Whether or not you follow Jesus, I believe choosing this type of love is possible. We may not always be successful in exercising it, but every person does have the power within to choose in every instance.
And, when I speak of choosing love first, what I mean is making love – in any situation – your default.
Someone cuts you off in traffic? Choose to love first. You do not know what’s happening in his/her life. Don’t take it personally. Recognize it was either a mistake or, if not, that person actually needs your loving response.
Someone spreads gossip about you? Choose to love first. Rather than respond to the mean behavior (this time likely intentional), try to get behind the behavior and recognize only people with poor self-esteem do stuff like that. It’s a well-worn phrase, but it’s really true: Hurt people hurt people. Keep that in mind.
Someone cheats you financially? Choose to love first. Although you have the complete right to go after someone legally if you find yourself in such a situation, first try to understand why it happened. Respond in a sane – and maybe even loving – manner. Anyone who does something like that to you is deeply troubled. Recognize that, and proceed with circumspection and wisdom.
If you choose love in cases like these and others, you will be a force for good. And you will stand out in your response. Doing so, you may just change the life of the one you are responding to – or the life of someone else who is watching.
The reason why loving beyond borders is critical, especially now
For sure, it is easiest to connect with people like ourselves. But the future of our highly connected, multicultural and multi-dimensional world demands more of us now. This is true especially in the face of increasing divisions, ethnocentrism, isolationism, nationalism, polarization, tribalism and the like.
These trends mandate a counter response. Not just one of resistance, but one of LOVE. Not just one of countering what we believe to be wrong, but one of trying to better understand WHY it is happening in the first place. One of looking at the heart.
And herein lies the deep value of loving beyond your borders: When you get outside yourself - and outside of your unchecked gut response - and choose to love, especially in the difficult situations, you add hope and light and love to this world. This good you add, it multiplies. In fact, it can spread like wildfire.
And this is the kind of stuff we need to spread. Love beyond borders. Because love heals, changes, restores and offers hope. It makes us better human beings. And as we become better it spills over to others. They become better, too. It produces a chain reaction.
And this is a goal – personally and corporately – worth striving for.
Can you recall a situation where you had to summon a loving response when it was hard? What was it?